A colorful escape from daily problems
Las Rancheritas of Agustin Gonzales, Guanajuato Mexico, are the only rug hookers in the entire country. They were taught rug hooking in 1997 by a local non-profit organization, Mujeres en Cambio, dedicated to supporting women and girls in the area. They started with one woman and have now grown to a cooperative of sixteen in 2018. Their work is a delightful reflection of rural life, with corn, burros, cows, cactus as the subject matter. They live in an economically challenged village of about 1000 people near San Miguel de Allende, SMA. Wool fabric is expensive and difficult to find in Mexico. Part of their success is due to the generous donations of wool from rug hookers in the USA who learned of the project through articles in various rug hooking magazines.
Rug hooking is a process of cutting medium weight wool into strips and then creating loops with the strips using a special hook. The “hook” the strips into loose woven fabric to which a design has been drawn. “Rug” hooking is a bit of a misnomer since the process is “rug” hooking but most of the pieces are made into wall hangings, seat cushions bags or trivets. The larger ones can certainly be used as rugs since they are 100% wool.
The community where the group is located are subsistence farmers with husbands working as laborers in SMA to bring cash into the families. The additional money brought into these families through sales of their rugs is substantial. Recently I asked the women how their lives had been affected economically and personally by their work as rug hookers. Some of their answers were surprising because of their cultural background and some were universal. Among the economic benefits are more money for: seed, children’s school supplies, better clothing, gas for cooking and candles and flowers for home altars. Once a year the group has a special mass at the church with offerings given to God for their good fortune. They are deeply religious. In terms of personal benefits the most common stated was their love for hooking rugs. One woman commented that it was like therapy since it distracts her mind from day to day problems. She also expressed the satisfaction she receives from exploring new techniques and styles.
In 2015 the group created the “Rancho Tour”. This popular tour brings people to their village to see how rugs are made and to experience rural life. In addition to rug hooking they learn about stone carving, traditional cooking techniques, medical herbs and the indigenous Otomi language. This has become very successful for the group and their guests who learn about the “real” Mexico. These women are multi-talented and great organizers as well as artists.